Exploring the racial gap in swimming - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Exploring the racial gap in swimming

by Brandon Richards bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC-TV) – The drowning deaths of six African-American teenagers in Shreveport on Monday is refocusing attention on a sensitive question: Why don't most black children know how to swim?

According to a 2008 survey by USA Swimming, 58% of African-American children and 56% of Hispanic children cannot swim. Compare those rates to the 31% of white children who cannot swim.

The same survey found black children were three times as likely to drown than white children.

Drowning has no boundaries.

Learning to swim and how to be safe in and near the water is an essential part of our lives especially in this part of the country where we have warm weather, abundance of water related activities.

I see the problem in Shreveport youth drownings as probably a series of unfortunate preventable incidents.

Not just for African Americans but for young adults.  

"Drowning has no boundaries," said Judi McIntosh, President of Swimsational Swim School in Sulphur. "Learning to swim and how to be safe in and near the water is an essential part of our lives, especially in this part of the country where we have warm weather [and an] abundance of water related activities."

McIntosh said a number of factors may explain the racial disparities, including economic background.

McIntosh said only about ten percent of her clients are minority.

McIntosh said she's not only concerned with minority children being able to swim, but all children across Southwest Louisiana.

"I see the problem in [the] Shreveport youth drownings as probably a series of unfortunate preventable incidents, not just for African-Americans but for [all] young adults" said McIntosh.

McIntosh encourages parents to get their kids swimming lessons.

McIntosh said she is even noticing more adults coming in to her business to get swimming lessons.

Diversity experts said the racial disparities probably have something to do with the fact that for much of the 20th Century, African-American and other minorities were banned from most public pools.

For more information about swimming lessons, call Swimsational Swim School at (337) 527-0950.

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